Time Is Running Out: Zamfara State Lead Poisoning Crisis

White flag with red logo of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) against sunny blue sky

© Valérie Batselaere/MSF

Six-Month Progress Report on the May 2012 International Conference on Lead Poisoning

On May 9th and 10th, 2012 Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders (MSF), the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health held an International Conference on Lead Poisoning, with a special focus on the Zamfara crisis, which brought together leading medical, environmental and mining experts, government policy makers, and traditional leadership.

The purpose of the Conference was to share lessons learnt and best practice and develop the sustainable holistic solutions needed to solve the Zamfara crisis, including a plan for immediate action.

This six-month progress report reviews the steps taken to achieve the Action Plan agreed by delegates at the Conference. It finds that on nearly all agreed action points, very little has materialized.

Most critically hundreds of children in the village of Bagega and surrounding areas continue to needlessly suffer the effects of lead poisoning. Urgently needed funds to remediate Bagega (environmentally clean and remove lead from the home environment) and invest in safer mining practices were promised by the President in May 2012, but have still not been released by the Secretary of the Government of the Federation.

The time for talk is over: it is time to get the lead out of Bagega.

Until these funds are released to the appropriate agencies on the ground in Zamfara State, environmental remediation in Bagega cannot begin. In the absence of remediation, children are continuously exposed to the toxins and medical treatment is useless.

MSF is ready and willing to treat children in this area, but is unable to do so until the urgently needed remediation has been completed.

As agreed by the Nigerian Federal Government, remediation of Bagega was due to begin at the end of October 2012, directly after the present rainy season. As funds still have not reached the appropriate actors in Zamfara State, however, the window for the remediation to start is closing rapidly. Remediation must start by the end of this year, or it will not be possible before the end of the next rainy season, and lead-poisoned children will continue to wait for the foreseeable future. If the funds are not released now, MSF’s chance to treat the leadpoisoned children of Bagega will be drastically reduced.

With the release of this report, MSF is calling, in collaboration with other stakeholders, for the urgent intervention of the President for the immediate release of the Bagega remediation funds.